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Olympics breaches the urban-rural divide

Audiences in rural and urban territories were almost at par according to BARC data, dispelling notions that the Games are just an urban sport

Urvi Malvania  |  Mumbai 

Olympics breaches the urban-rural divide

After a wobbly start, for Indian athletes and broadcaster Star India, India finished its 2016 Olympics campaign on an optimistic note. As players ensured the Indian contingent didn't return empty handed, viewership numbers escalated in urban and rural India, indicating that nothing unites the country more than sports and nationalistic fervour. The Olympics garnered 477.6 million impressions (total number of tune-ins for the live telecast) across the nine channels it was available on (eight channels under Star Sports and DD) in India.

Interestingly, the urban-rural divide that is evident in viewership numbers for other genres is missing here. Rural impressions clocked 229 million, just short of the 248.5 million impressions recorded by urban audiences. "In fact, if we look at the contribution of rural India to the event, it is significant. This breaks the myth that an event like Olympics is viewed only by urban India. Another insight is the increasing interest in non-cricketing events, with P V Sindhu's final badminton match being the second most viewed event, after cricket," said Partho Dasgupta, CEO, BARC India

Among the territories, the UP/Uttarakhand belt contributed the maximum impressions at 70.9 million followed by the PHCHPJK belt (Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir) at 62.1 million. Maharashtra/Goa came in at number three with 58.1 million impressions. Dasgupta said, "BARC India is measuring a much larger universe now and the Olympics numbers are a reflection of that growing universe." The event has garnered huge numbers and this, he says, can also be attributed to the fact that TV owning households is on a rise."testing.. we are here....

Olympics breaches the urban-rural divide
The Olympics were aired by Star India on all its eight channels. Star India, after drawing flak for its coverage, clarified that it was not the producer for its shows and was simply drawing on the feed provided by the organisers. However, it produced content around the Indian athletes and had pre and post-match shows for analysis. Nitin Kukreja, CEO, Star Sports said, "Our endeavour to build a multi sports ecosystem is being rewarded with audience interest and attention not just in cricket but even in other sports. We expect this to further gather momentum."

"Olympics traditionally has not been skewed to any particular gender or age group. However, metros generally perform better than other markets. With P V Sindhu winning a silver medal, her final match attracted huge viewership in the South. Overall the viewing experience on TV and Hotstar both gave a good reach," says Jigar Rambhia, national director, sports and entertainment, Maxus India. P V Sindhu's final against Spain's Carolina Marin was the top rated sports programme for the week, bringing in a total of 17.3 million impressions across all the channels it was telecast on (Star Sports 2 and 3, the respective HD feeds and Doordarshan). It was also the highest rated non-cricket game on any sports network since the inception of BARC.

Star India's digital streaming platform Hotstar also provided round the clock coverage of the games. According to the broadcaster, the digital platform attracted nearly 70 percent of the reach of television in affluent homes in the top six metros.

Ajit Mohan, CEO, Hotstar says, "Hotstar enabled an experience that was unprecedented for sports fans not just in India but anywhere in the world: free access to almost every single moment of the Olympics fans with big moments being curated and showcased on the platform round the clock." This allowed viewers to revisit their favourite moments at will.

Before one rushes to conclusions about viewership for future Olympics and generates a rack of presentations on advertising and branding opportunities for Tokyo 2020, it would do good to consider what Dasgupta said in an interview with Business Standard earlier, "The biggest learning for us and the industry is that the past can't predict the future. Content drives ratings. But, along with content changes, viewership is extremely sensitive to various external stimuli like distribution, events/incidents that happen in real time and so on." However, there is no denying that there is a growing fascination with sports in the country and it is not just cricket.

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First Published: Thu, September 01 2016. 21:02 IST